Since January when I attended the Senior Bowl, my entire focus has been the Chicago Bears and the 2014 NFL Draft. Every article, every piece of research, every discussion has been based around the next three days and how the team can improve its roster through the draft.
There are countless scenarios that could play out once the process begins in earnest this evening at 7 p.m. CDT. I'd be lying if I told you I knew what was going to happen but based on my countless hours of research, I can present best- and worst-case scenarios for the Bears over the next three days.
With that in mind, let's get to our final Bear Report mock draft, projecting prospects for each of Chicago's seven draft picks.
Round 1 (14th overall)
DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
Since the beginning of this process, I have stood firm in my belief that Donald will be there when it's GM Phil Emery's turn to pick in the first round. Historically, undersized defensive tackles have not been selected in the Top 13 and Donald is not a once-in-a-lifetime talent, despite the sky-high hype surrounding him. For the Bears though, he's the perfect replacement for Henry Melton, a 3-technique defensive tackle who can one-gap penetrate and be disruptive in the backfield. Donald would be the final piece of the puzzle along a defensive line that has been rebuilt this offseason. He's the ideal selection, one who could have a major impact this year and beyond.
S Calvin Pryor, Louisville
It's very possible Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will be off the board at 14th overall. If Donald is gone as well, Pryor becomes a prime target for the Bears. The safety position currently has no starters and Pryor would immediately become the most talented safety on the roster. He's a powerful, fearless in-the-box player who could provide quality run support. His ability to lay the lumber as a tackler would bring toughness to the defense, something the secondary was lacking immensely last year. Pryor is one of the top players at the club's biggest position of need. He'd fit very well on the back end of Chicago's defense.
Round 2 (51st overall)
CB/S Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State
Joyner lacks ideal size but beyond that, there's nothing not to like about this tough, versatile football player. He was named All-ACC at safety in 2012 and All-ACC at cornerback in 2013. He's an instinctive defender who plays violently, intelligently and with confidence. He's an on-field leader with great explosion and an innate feel for the game. The Seminoles boasted one of the nation's top defenses last year, including first-round defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, yet it was Joyner who led the team in sacks (5.5). His positional versatility would give him the opportunity to start as either a nickelback or at safety. In addition, Joyner is a quality kick returner who averaged more than 24 yards per return for FSU. And as for his size, the Bears know better than any team that being relatively diminutive doesn't predicate future success. Just ask two-time Pro Bowler Tim Jennings (5-8, 185).
DT Dominique Easley, Florida
Easley tore ACLs in both of his knees during his collegiate career, which waves a huge red flag in terms of his injury potential going forward. As far as his skill set goes, he's a Top 10 talent in this year's draft. Easley is a pure 3-technique defensive tackle who jumps out at you on film due to his explosiveness off the ball. He stays skinny through the gaps and uses very good leverage, which makes up for his less-than-ideal size. If the Bears can't land Donald and are willing to gamble in the second on a player with knee problems, Easley has as much upside as any defensive tackle in this year's draft. If he stays healthy in the pros, he'll be a second-round steal.
Round 3 (82 overall)
WR/RB/KR Dri Archer, Kent State
Archer is one of the most dynamic offensive players in this year's class. He was named All-MAC at wide receiver, running back and as a kick returner. He turned in one of the fastest 40-yard-dash times (4.26) in NFL Scouting Combine history (his unofficial 4.16 was the fastest ever). Archer would add an extra dimension to Chicago's offense. He could work out of the slot as a receiver and out of the backfield as a running back, creating wicked mismatches in the process. His blazing speed would also go a long way toward replacing Devin Hester in the kick-return game. Archer is small and potentially brittle but his upside is immense. In Marc Trestman's system, he could be the final piece of the puzzle, one that sends Chicago's offense into the next stratosphere.
LB Chris Borland, Wisconsin
The Bears have a lot of bodies at linebacker but, either through age or inexperience, every player has major question marks. If D.J. Williams misses time, as he did last year with two separate injuries, the defense will once again turn to Jon Bostic, who proved last year he's not a middle linebacker, or the untested Shea McClellin. With Borland, the Bears would get an intelligent, experienced tackling machine who could man the MIKE position from Day 1. He's not very athletic and may have to come off the field on passing downs but Borland's size and downhill playing style would be a big boost to Chicago's 32nd ranked run defense.
Round 4 (117th overall)
S/CB Marqueston Huff, Wyoming
Huff was a two-year starter at cornerback before moving to safety his senior year. He's fast (4.49) and very physical. He has the speed to carry receivers vertically and is very aggressive when the ball is in the air. Huff is not afraid to support the run and had 127 tackles in 2013. He's a bit inconsistent and must improve his overall technique but as a versatile, athletic secondary player, the Bears can't go wrong with Huff in the fourth round. At the very least, he'll be an impact player on special teams.
RB Jerick McKinnon, Georgia Southern
McKinnon split time as a running back and option quarterback in college. He excelled in short-yardage situations (his 42 career touchdowns are a Georgia Southern record). At the combine, McKinnon put on a show, demonstrating blazing speed (4.36), explosiveness (40.5 vertical jump, 11-0 broad jump) and power (32 bench-press reps). He's versatile and extremely athletic, which would make him a perfect complement to Matt Forte in the Bears' backfield.
Round 5 (156th overall)
OLB/DE Adrian Hubbard, Alabama
Hubbard is a bit of a tweener who has yet to reach his full potential. He doesn't jump out on film and he's not extremely athletic. Yet Hubbard is versatile, having demonstrated the ability to rush the passer off the edge, while also showing well in space as an outside linebacker. He's a project and must refine his game but his ability to play multiple positions, combined with his raw power, would make him great value in the fifth round. His size and skill set could make him a beast on special teams as well.
TE Crockett Gillmore, Colorado State
Gillmore would be outstanding value at this point in the draft. He has a solid set of hands and showed very well as an in-line blocker at the Senior Bowl. He's not a 50-catch tight end but he does everything well. Crockett could earn reps as an edge blocker and could develop into a weapon near the goal line.
Round 6 (183rd overall)
RB Tyler Gaffney, Stanford
Gaffney is a pure power runner. He's not quick or speedy and doesn't have great one-cut ability but between the tackles, he's a heavy load. The Bears have struggled for years in short-yardage and near the goal line. Gaffney may not offer much overall but he would cure those short-yardage woes immediately. He runs with his pads low and churns his legs, making him tough to bring down with just one tackler. He's one-dimensional but the area in which Gaffney excels is Chicago's biggest need on offense.
Round 6 (191st overall)
LB Max Bullough, Michigan State
Bullough is a powerful, productive and experienced middle linebacker. He was a Butkus Award semifinalist in 2013 and was an academic All-Big Ten. His football IQ is off the charts, which made up for his lack of ideal athleticism. He's a throwback linebacker who can be effective against both the run and pass. His intelligence and durability would make him a quality backup and special teams player.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.